Every day 9 women in the UK are diagnosed with cervical cancer and 3 women will lose their lives to the disease. Cervical cancer is the most common cancer in women under 35 but is largely preventable thanks to cervical screening and the HPV vaccination programme.
But, statistics show that the number of women aged 25-29 years of age being screened for cervical cancer is the lowest in any age group and numbers attending for screening are falling year on year. Surveys undertaken by cancer charities indicate embarrassment and a lack of understanding of the causes of cervical cancer may be behind the fall in numbers attending*.
The number of women dying from cervical cancer has halved over the past 27 years as a result of the NHS screening programme as well as improvement in treatment.
Despite this success over 3,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year. The majority of women diagnosed with cervical cancer have delayed coming forward for screening which has impacted on their ability to have early changes treated.
Consultant in Public Health and Wessex Screening and Immunisation Lead for NHS England (Wessex) Clare Simpson said: “We have noticed a fall in attendance of younger women over the past few years, and this decline in attendance for screening is now linked to a rise in the incidence of cervical cancer in women under 35.”
NHS England and Public Health England are supporting European Cervical Cancer Prevention Week which runs from January 24-30. The week aims to raise awareness of the importance of cervical screening and its role in preventing cancer, as well as encouraging women to go for their screening test when invited.
Ms Simpson added: “It is really important for young women to understand the importance of attending cervical screening when they receive a letter from their GP as it can detect pre-cancer abnormalities, which, if left untreated, may develop into cancer. Screening is for people without symptoms as a preventative measure.
“The screening test is relatively simple, takes about 5 minutes and is performed by the Practice Nurse at your GP Surgery. 95% of results will be normal and of those that are not, the vast majority can be treated very easily and will never develop in to cancer. I urge women who may have received a letter and decided not to attend to reconsider and make an appointment – it really is very quick, it could prevent you needing more invasive treatment later on and could ultimately save your life.”
NHS England’s Screening and Immunisation teams work with GP practices to increase awareness and are supporting Cervical Cancer Prevention Week.